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HOW TO VISIT THE UNITED STATES

Visitors to the United States require a non-immigrant visa, unless they fall under the Visa Waiver

Program or are exempt from the visa requirement under multinational agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Visitors to the United States require a non-immigrant visa, unless they fall under the Visa Waiver

Program or are exempt from the visa requirement under multinational agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A non-immigrant visa is a physical entry document designed to authorize a certain activity for a specific, limited time. It can only be obtained at a US embassy or consulate outside the US, but can also be taken away by any US immigration officer if it is abused. The usual visa for a visitor is a B2 visa, which is issued for those traveling for pleasure or medical treatment. There are no quota restrictions on the visa, and it can be issued quickly in most countries. The expiration date on the visa designates the period of time in which a visitor can enter or re-enter the country, not the length of a stay itself. The length of a stay is determined on entry and recorded on the visitorís I-94 card. Most visas allow for multiple entries, although some allow for only a single entry. A B2 visa does not permit one to work or operate a business in the US.

What to Expect When Applying for a Visitorís Visa

Visiting the United States is a two-step process: applying for a visitorís visa at a foreign consulate (preferably the applicantís home consulate), and examination at the entry point of the US. Thus the visa does not guarantee entry to the United States; it is a ďpreliminary findingĒ of eligibility to enter as a visitor. A visa application requires documentation and probably an interview. Getting a visa requires proof to immigration authorities that you will leave at the end of the trip. A visitor also needs to demonstrate financial independence, or that there is someone who is willing to take financial responsibility for him or her. There is no way to appeal a refusal, but one can always reapply as many times as one wishes.

At the port of entry to the United States, immigration authorities have the authority to deny admission, or to determine the length of time for which the visitor is authorized to remain in the country, which is noted on a stamp on the visitorís Record of Arrival-Departure. Immigration officials can bar an applicant from entering the United States for five years if they discover the applicant was guilty of a fraudulent misrepresentation such as traveling on a forged passport.

Qualifying to Visit

The main policy consideration that governs visitation is the concern that people may use it as a means of gaining entry to the US and then not leave. The presumption in law is that every applicant for a visitor visa has the immigrant intent to remain permanently in the US. A visitor must demonstrate that the purpose of the trip is for pleasure or medical treatment, and that he or she plans to remain only for a specific and limited period of time. The chances of success for a visitor increase if he or she has a residence outside of the US and other ties that will ensure an exit from the country at the end of the visit. Such ties might include ownership of real estate, a bank account, a letter from an employer referring to a job available on return, close family members remaining behind, or proof of registration for further studies at a school or university.

Time Limitations

Under a visitorís visa with multiple entries, the number of trips that can be taken before the visa expires is not limited, but the length of each individual trip is. Tourists can usually stay for up to six months on any given visit.

Extending the Length of a Visit

As with visa applications, extensions for a visit will require certain documentation. There are two ways of extending the length of a visit: one can leave the country and return for another six months, or one can apply for an extension from within the US as long as the entrance to the US was not made on a visa waiver and the total stay will not exceed one year. Usually, a visitor cannot get an extension of more than six additional months. Extension applications are normally approved within two months and, if the application is filed on time, the visitor will be permitted to remain in the United States until a decision is reached, even if the authorized stay expires in the meantime. Unfortunately, appeals on a rejected extension application make little sense from a time and cost point of view and are therefore of little use.

Converting a Visit into a Permanent Stay

It is important for prospective visitors to keep in mind that a non-immigrant visa will not lead to US citizenship. It also cannot be legally used to live permanently in the US. Although a visit can be extended by leaving the country and returning for an additional six months, immigration authorities are likely to notice if this is done repeatedly. Having a visitorís visa does not provide an advantage in a green card application, and applying for a green card after having entered the United States on a visitorís visa can raise questions about the original visa application. Foreigners who already have a green card application in process and who wish to visit the US may find it difficultFree Reprint Articles, due to the perception that they will not leave when their trip expires.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andy J. Semotiuk is an US and Canadian Immigration Lawyer has practiced law for over 30 years and served over 15,000 clients. He can be reached by email at andy@myworkvisa.com or through his website at http://www.myworkvisa.com.



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